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By: Juan Ruiz / April 5, 2024
Tags: Content, Content marketing, Digital

Building an effective homepage

You only get one chance to make a first impression. This holds true when meeting someone for the first time and when someone clicks to open a website. Often, the homepage is responsible for captivating and engaging a user upon their first encounter, ensuring a return visit—or at least leaving them with a positive and lasting memory.

For these reasons, a well-designed homepage should guide users toward their goals while serving as a “display” or “front door” for new visitors. This page also serves as a navigational anchor point, a place users tend to return to when starting a new navigation journey or seeking more information about a business.

As we established when discussing navigation some months ago, usability is a key quality attribute that allow web designers to find ways to engage users and enhance ease-of-use within a website. It is not an abstract concept; and as mentioned, it is defined by five quality components: Learnability, Efficiency, Memorability, Errors and Satisfaction.

If homepage design follows strong usability guidelines, you can increase the possibilities of engagement and success. Here are four fundamental principles for homepage design that may seem evident, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice these rules are broken more often than you might think.

Communicate who you are and what you offer

When walking through a shopping centre, it’s likely you can easily identify what a shop sells or what they do simply by looking at their window and the products displayed. You shouldn’t have to enter and browse through the aisles or ask a salesperson to find that out (and if you do, it’s probably part of their sales strategy). Similarly, when you arrive at a website homepage, you should quickly identify what the business or organization does and what you can accomplish on the site.

People shouldn’t have to guess or browse extensively to determine if products can be purchased online or if the site is purely informational. Similarly, you should be able to concisely express what services or products are being offered instead of expecting users to browse through different pages to find out.

A good example is our homepage where, in one sentence, we clearly establish what we are, a full-service marketing agency, and outline the services we offer.

Forte Marketing Homepage

Provide examples

Returning to the physical store example, there’s nothing more helpful than seeing the latest sneakers on display rather than a written sign saying, “latest model available.” Website visitors rely on and expect to see examples of the company’s offerings, previous works and showcases. Having these encourages visitors to explore more and quickly determine if you have what they are looking for.

Going back to our homepage, showcasing a wide range of industries within our portfolio allow visitors to determine if we are a good fit and encourages further exploration.

Forte Marketing Showcase Section

Prompt action

This applies to any page on a website, but as the homepage usually marks the beginning of a user’s exploration, it is critical that it clearly communicates what is next and what key actions you expect from visitors.

While having a single call-to-action would be ideal, a homepage can have multiple tasks available. In saying that, it is key to prioritise these and understand user needs and emphasise on those high-priority actions.

For example, Greater Northern Removals understands that users often make a decision based on pricing. Therefore, placing a quick quote form at the top of the page allows visitors to get in touch with the business and start the process with ease.

Greater Northern Removals Homepage

Keep it simple

For business owners it is often challenging to prioritise and define what’s more important. In some cases, the decision will be to include as much content as possible. However, it is important to keep it simple to avoid overwhelming users. Limit animated content to a minimum unless it adds value, and eliminate distractions such as popups, sharing buttons and automated chats. Clutter and long-form content can negatively impact homepage usability.

As businesses evolve and new products and services are added, its homepage should reflect those changes, just as brick-and-mortar businesses refresh their shop fronts to display new products or when seasons change. However, even as web design continues to evolve, we expect these principles will remain relevant and serve as a guide for crafting your homepage.

Juan Ruiz

Web Developer & Director

Juan is an experienced web developer with a career spanning multiple industries and roles.

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